Haunting musical composition aboard HMS Belfast recalls sinking of the Scharnhorst

By Richard Moss | 03 September 2012
a photo of man standing with crossed drumsticks next to an illuminated gun turret on HMS Belfast
© Home Live Art
Event Preview: Scharnhorst, a free musical performance from the decks of HMS Belfast, September 8-9 2012

Night-time visitors strolling along the Thames embankment this weekend may hear a haunting sound drifting from an unlikely London landmark. The iconic battleship HMS Belfast will be transformed into a large sound and percussive instrument as part of the Thames Festival.

The piece, called Scharnhorst - after the famous World War Two German battleship sunk in the Battle of the North Cape in December 1943 - has been devised by composer Orlando Gough, who first used the decks of Belfast for a percussion based performance in 2011.

For his latest piece, which will be performed free on September 8 and 9 at 8pm and 9.15pm each night, Bloom has recruited 90 amateur singers, including a female choir from Germany, Russian singers based in London and a team of young percussionists.

The results promise to be a touching experience that mirrors the end of the German Battleship and HMS Belfast’s role in her demise.

One of Nazi Germany's most powerful battleships, Scharnhorst sank to the icy depths of the North Atlantic after coming under attack from a flotilla of British ships led by HMS York and including HMS Belfast. Only 36 of her 1,968 crew members were pulled from the freezing waters.

Exploring themes of mothers and sons, the choir will sing a poignant mixture of lullabies and laments as the young percussionists beat out patterns and rhythms designed to evoke the bravery and the hell of battle.

The free event can be accessed on the riverside adjacent to HMS Belfast, Queen's Walk, SE1 2JH.

More pictures:

a photo of a female choir next to a gun turret on HMS Belfast
© Home Live Art
a photo of an illuminated gun turret on HMS Belfast
© Home Live Art
  • Scharnhorst has been produced by Home Live Art, a company specialising in free live performance events. See www.homeliveart.com/ for more details.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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